Coronavirus: Africa is arming itself against the second wave

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Relatively spared so far by the pandemic, Africa is arming itself against a second wave of COVID-19, which forces the most affected countries of the continent of more than 1.2 billion inhabitants to return to health measures strict.

• Read also: [EN DIRECT] All the developments of the pandemic

On the South African highways which spin towards the beaches of the south-east, thousands of cars have gathered in recent days: the period coincides with the beginning of summer and the summer holidays in this part of the world.

But in these tourist areas where the virus is already spreading with worrying rapidity, no long days on the beach this year: occasional closures, limitation of gatherings and widened curfew, the African country most affected by the virus with nearly 900,000 cases have given a turn of the screw to health restrictions.

To date, the picture of the epidemic on the continent remains mixed. New cases are increasing in East, North and Southern Africa but instead tend to decline in West and Central Africa, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the African Union.

“At least 25 African countries have recorded an increase of more than 20% of cases” last month, with now 11,000 new cases per day, warned Dr Nsenga Ngoy of the WHO on Thursday from Brazzaville.

In Tunisia, twenty people die from the virus every day currently, while the first wave only killed 50 people. In the medina of Tunis, deserted by tourists, traders are trying to convert into sandwich shops for local customers.

In Uganda, all regions are affected. Neighboring Rwanda recorded almost as many new cases in December (722) as since the start of the pandemic (797).

Coronavirus: Africa is arming itself against the second wave

“Third wave”

Bars and nightclubs have been closed there since March. Under a heavy fine for breaking the rule, a bar owner in Kigali told AFP that he had lost everything: “There were customers drinking, the police forced us to close.”

In Kenya, where a second wave in September led to maintaining a curfew and schools closed, some health professionals are already waiting for “the third wave”.

For several weeks, the CDC and WHO have been calling for preparation for a second “inevitable” wave in Africa, in the wake of Europe.

Appeared on the continent nine months ago, the epidemic was not however as devastating as feared, in a poor region and largely devoid of health structures.

Africa records 2.4 million cases, according to a count by AFP, or only 3.6% of the global total. And more than 57,000 dead, less than France alone (59,072).

While the low level of screening may call into question the reliability of the statistics, no country has observed a peak in excess mortality which would be a sign of the virus spreading under the radar.

Young population, cross-immunity due to previous epidemics: experts are only hypotheses to explain this unexpected development.

Coronavirus: Africa is arming itself against the second wave

” Downside ”

The draconian and precocious measures taken by the authorities may also have something to do with it. With a flip side, because the social and economic consequences of containment have been disastrous for the most fragile economies.

It is also for these reasons that in African countries where the stigma of COVID has become less visible, life has rushed to resume its course, largely ignoring any barrier gesture.

In Cameroon (center), where the African Nations Championship (CHAN) will be held in January, the government is considering a partial opening of the stadiums. In Equatorial Guinea, only nightclubs are still closed.

And Senegalese authorities are facing calls to protest the restrictions.

“In general, the virus continues to progress in Africa,” warns Isabelle Defourny, director of operations at Médecins sans frontières (MSF).

The NGO observed an upsurge in the capitals, but also cases in rural areas so far spared, especially in Chad.

“We are also seeing an increase in severe cases that require oxygen, especially in Bamako, which was not the case during the first wave,” said Ms. Defourny.

And the battle of African countries for access to vaccines is far from won. Only a quarter of these countries have the resources to pay the global bill estimated at 4.7 billion, according to the WHO.

But “if everyone is not protected, then no one is protected”, hammered Thursday the director of the Alliance for vaccines (Gavi), Thabani Maphosa, calling for their equitable access.

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